Jan Leow's Press Blog

Making a Drupal Web Site

Drupal is like a jack of all trades. You could use it for setting a proper website with tier like structure for easy navigation, you could use it to set up a forum, or you just use it to set up a blogging site. It is so versatile that according to the Drupal website, it is use for:

Drupal.org logo
* Community web portals
* Discussion sites
* Corporate web sites
* Intranet applications
* Personal web sites or blogs
* Aficionado sites
* E-commerce applications
* Resource directories
* Social Networking sites

Having used it for some time, I could say it is quite easy to use. Much easier than say Mambo or Joomla. Like any CMS, they use blocks to separate website into each section of the webpage. You could actually include or exclude a section from showing up when a particular page is called up.

It has the ability to write content without any HTML code for publishing; on the other hand, for those who would like to have more control on how content should be displayed, HTML codes could be used in the content itself.

In addition, you have control over the URL of a web page by using their URL aliases to provide some SEO functionality to a web page which also helps visitors and webmaster to make page linking. Ugly URLs could be avoided and clean URLs are easier to type in and remember. However, do be careful to exclude the search engine crawlers and bots from accessing the similar pages located in the nodes as that would constitute duplicate content which is bad for page ranking especially with Google.

Plugins are also quite easy to install to increase its functionality. Plugins like XML sitemap could be easily installed. There are quite a number of plugins freely available which you could easily install and use.

There are plenty of free themes which you could download to set apart and make your website look more outstanding. Since not every one of us have the skill to design a really superb website, better leave it those who has the skill and ability. However do keep a back up of the theme that you have uploaded and modified. Usually after an upgrade, the theme gets deleted from the Drupal folder. That’s why I’m only using themes that came with Drupal. Too lazy to upload, tinker and modify the themes again because I didn’t make a back up of the changes done! Besides the build-in themes still looked alright though it may not be that inspiring.

Though Drupal is easy to use, it is not without its drawbacks. One of my major grouse with the Drupal installation is that each succeeding upgrade causes something to break in the website. For example, the Drupal version 5.3 has the ability to post web content and blocks using full Raw HTML. However the latest upgrade to version 6.x has that ability removed. Without the ability for posting in full raw HTML, I lost the ability to use JavaScript. Thus Google Adsense and web analytics which uses JavaScript will not work. I had to work around by placing the code directly into the PHP file itself to get it to work. Doing so also causes the web page alignment to run and I had to tinker with it a fair bit to get it to look balance. The HTML comment tags also didn’t work within the block, (eg <!– comment — >) and I had to remove them from the web page otherwise it looked very funny to have them displayed on the website.

Fortunately I tested the upgrade on a separate Drupal installation. After experiencing the problems, I decided not to proceed with the upgrade on my main Drupal installation until they have iron out the kinks. This was not the first time I had experience this problem. The transition from version 5.1 to 5.2 was similarly flawed and was later fixed with version 5.3.

Another issue with Drupal, it works best if you install it in the root folder of your web domain. You may find some things don’t work when installing it in a subfolder, take for example the XML sitemap, when I wanted to test it in my secondary Drupal installation, it didn’t work. So I took a chance and installed it on my main installation and it work without a hitch, but not without a sigh of relieve as I was afraid it might break something in my installation.

In conclusion, use Drupal if you want an easy to use CMS software, easy to install plugins and has a host of standard features like blogging, forum and article writing management, this is it.

Find out more about it at the Drupal website.

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